Will combo pill catch on in U.S. to prevent heart attacks?

A cheap, daily pill that combines four drugs has been tested for the first time in the United States to see if it works as well among low-income Americans as it has in other countries to treat conditions leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Experts said the study may draw U.S. interest to a strategy that has been seen as useful only in places with limited access to medical care.

The pill contained low doses of three blood pressure drugs and a cholesterol drug.

About 300 people, ages 45 to 75, from a community health centre in Mobile, Alabama, took part. Half were assigned to take the combo pill. The others continued their usual care.

After a year, the polypill patients had lowered their blood pressure and LDL, or bad cholesterol, by more than the others and by amounts doctors find meaningful.

The study didn’t last long enough to measure heart attacks or strokes. A five-year study of a different polypill, in 6,800 people in Iran, found it lowered the danger of heart attack, stroke or heart failure by a third.

Polypills aren’t yet available in the United States. Many U.S. doctors have seen little need, preferring to tailor medications individually, said Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Canada, who leads another polypill study expected to finish next year.

But doctors often fail to customize medications because they don’t have time and patients dislike return visits.

“That just doesn’t happen in practice,” Yusuf said.

The research , paid for by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, was published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is exactly the type of evidence we need that will help move this strategy forward,” said Dr. Sidney Smith, a former heart association president from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wasn’t involved in the study.

Most of the people in the study made less than $15,000 a year and 96% were black. They had at least borderline high blood pressure. People were excluded if their “bad” cholesterol was too high, which would require more aggressive treatment.

Despite having elevated blood pressure, only about half were on medication for it and less than 20% were on cholesterol medicine.

“The polypill gives vulnerable patients a running start” toward better health, said lead author Dr. Daniel Munoz, a heart doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Vanderbilt made the pills at a monthly cost of $26 per patient, though the drugs were free to study participants.

Charles Roland, 66, of Prichard, Alabama, took the polypill. Remembering one pill was easier than his prior routine of a blood pressure pill in the morning and a cholesterol pill in the evening.

“My blood pressure went way down,” Roland said of his results during the study. “My cholesterol went down and maintained at a consistent level that’s not a threat to my health.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta confirms 28 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths

There are 28 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, bringing the… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP seize guns, more than $14K in cash after curfew check

Rocky Mountain House RCMP came upon an expected seizure Wednesday. During a… Continue reading

Visitors should stay home this long weekend, say central Alberta’s resort communities

Social distancing and other virus prevention measures must override pleasure trips

Police officers who shot and killed a suspect near Bashaw cleared in review

ASIRT concluded they used “reasonable force” under the circumstances

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Red Deer businesses still serving

BY PAUL COWLEY ADVOCATE STAFF… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Leafs’ Matthews hoping to take care of ‘unfinished business’ if season resumes

Leafs’ Matthews hoping to take care of ‘unfinished business’ if season resumes

No ice, big problem: Nothing mimics skating for NHL players

No ice, big problem: Nothing mimics skating for NHL players

Oilers forward Cave remains in medically-induced coma at Toronto hospital

Oilers forward Cave remains in medically-induced coma at Toronto hospital

In abrupt about-face, UFC halts shows in face of COVID-19 pandemic

In abrupt about-face, UFC halts shows in face of COVID-19 pandemic

Saskatchewan premier doesn’t see need for Emergencies Act in COVID-19 fight

Saskatchewan premier doesn’t see need for Emergencies Act in COVID-19 fight

Most Read